| Photo: UCLA
|UC President Mark Yudof discusses proposed fee increases and budget plan with reporters.|
Faced with a state funding gap of $1.2 billion next year, UC Regents voted today (Nov. 19) to increase student fees and adopt a financial plan that asks the state to fully fund the university's needs.
The fee increases are part of a 2010-11 operating budget that the Regents endorsed Wednesday. The budget seeks an additional $913 million to restore program cuts, pay for unfunded enrollment growth, end employee furloughs and contribute to the UC Retirement Plan.
"We're being forced to impose a user tax on our students and their families," said UC President Mark Yudof during Wednesday's finance committee hearing. "This is a tax necessary because our political leaders have failed to adequately fund public higher education."
The university has already taken steps to cuts costs and deal with the steep declines in state funding, said Regent Eddie Island.
"We've done all the easy things, and we've done some of the hard things. We have no choice now but to turn to every practical source of revenue," Island said. "We're going to ask students to participate."
It was the first time Island voted for a fee increase, but he called the action necessary to keep UC strong.
"This is the most difficult time and the most difficult vote we've gone through," said Regent Sherry Lansing.
Student Regent Jesse Bernal cast the lone opposition vote to the fee increases.
The new fees will be levied in two stages. Undergraduates and graduate professional school students will see an increase of 15 percent, or $585, in the winter/spring 2010 terms. Fees for graduate academic students will rise 2.6 percent, or $111. All students will see an additional 15 percent increase, or $1,334, beginning summer 2010.
The committee also approved increases in professional school fees, ranging from $280 to $5,696.
|Students sit outside Covel Commons, site of the UC Regents meeting.
The increased fees are expected to generate $505 million. Of that amount, $175 million would be set aside for financial aid.
Regents also endorsed an expansion of the Blue and Gold Opportunity Plan. Students with household incomes of $70,000 and lower will have all their systemwide fees covered if they are eligible for financial aid.
Increases in UC grants, Cal Grants, federal Pell Grants and expanded federal tuition tax credits are expected to cover the total 2009-10 fee increases for nearly three-fourths of all undergraduates with household incomes below $180,000.
The fee increase vote came against a backdrop of vocal student protests. On Wednesday about a dozen students from UCLA and the Berkeley, Riverside and Irvine campuses testified during the meeting, telling Regents how the increased fees would affect them and their families.
Graduate student Adam Fowler said professional school students such as he would be particularly hard hit from increasing fees.
"The idea that we are future earning machines, that we're all going to be wealthy doctors and lawyers is mistaken," he said. "We need your support. We ask that you re-examine old stereotypes."
The Wednesday meeting had to be halted three times when UC workers and students in the audience began shouting and singing. Campus police cleared the room, and eight audience members who refused to leave were arrested and then released. An additional six students were given citations for disturbing the peace and released.
Students rallied outside Covel Commons where the three-day meeting took place. They carried out two days of fee protests, camping out on the UCLA campus and continuing the protest during the final board vote Thursday.
Yudof urged students to join him and the Regents in taking the fight to Sacramento and Washington. UC is fronting an advocacy campaign to convince state lawmakers to fully fund the university's budget request. Yudof is also calling on the federal government to play a bigger role in funding higher education.
The budget the full Board of Regents approved includes:
- $637.1 million to restore academic offerings, faculty hiring, student services and other programs cut due to state budget reductions.
- $155.8 million to support the 14,000 students currently enrolled but not funded by the state.
- $10.4 million for health science initiatives: $10 million for a new medical school at UC Riverside and $400,000 to fund the first class of the UC Davis nursing school.
- $109.8 million as a state contribution to the UC Retirement Plan and retiree health benefit costs. For 19 years, UC and its employees have not had to contribute to the retirement plan because of the high performance of the investment portfolio. That hiatus in contributions has save the state more than $2 billion, the university estimates. Rising plan payouts and accrued liabilities coupled with declining global investment markets have caused the plan's funding status to fall. Regents have scheduled a restart in employer and employee contributions in April 2010. The state's share of this cost will be $95.7 million.